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Turkmenistan's Flaming Sinkhole To Hell

Everyone knows Turkmenistan is a pretty oppressive place in which to live, but who knew you could find the Gates of Hell there?

Like many people around the world, I was fascinated by this photograph of a colossal sinkhole that suddenly swallowed an entire intersection in the center of Guatemala City last weekend:

The hole looks too perfect, too deep, and too scary, as if the scene was simply a CGI special effect from some Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Fascination with the sinkhole led me to a cool website called Crookedbrains and a fascinating post from March 14, 2009, titled "12 Amazing Holes In The Earth" (how can you not read that?) -- the first one of which is in the village of Darvaza (or Derweze) in the Karakum desert of Turkmenistan.

It's a giant crater formed after the collapse of an underground cavern in 1971. Apparently, geologists discovered that the cavern contained huge deposits of natural gas, and the thing was set alight to prevent the toxic discharge of the gas. To the surprise of everyone, it's been burning ever since.

The photos on the Crookedbrains post, taken by photographer John H. Bradley, are awe-inspiring.

YouTube is filled with all sorts of videos of the fiery vent, like the one posted above, plus here and here.

I particularly like this one, which contains the immortal words, "How close are you gettin' to that?!"

-- Grant Podelco

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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